Saturday, August 29, 2015

What I read for summer vacation

There sure has been plenty of talking about my summer vacation. I mean, by me. I'm not blaming you for it. Curiously, though I was only able to manage to get the vacation to go for a paltry 18 days, I may have managed to get it to go for as much as 40 days and 40 nights in clerkmanifesto time. This may explain why you feel damp.

I'm pretty sure this, formally, is the very last one of this year's vacation posts.

A month or so ago, then, I listed all the books I took on vacation and my prospects for reading them. I leave all that here exactly as it was in that "before" post. All my new comments today I will put in bold type for clarity's sake.

1. Goblin Emperor by Addison 

Recommended to me at the library! I was cautiously convinced by the recommendation.

This was quietly charming. The coming of age of an isolated, miserably treated boy who becomes King. Oddly the Goblin stuff, and fantasy world was so low key as to be pretty much unnecessary, and yet by no means problematic. Just a very nice, quiet story of someone finding their way.

2. Way of Kings by Sanderson

Skeptical, almost left it behind. Looking like a long shot to me now. As a side note this book is 8 billion pages long!

I never stopped disliking this book enough to read a single word of it, so I can't even blame the book for my disliking it.

3. The Troupe by Bennett

Circuses! Fire! This is one of those books I am drawn to because I keep picking up circus books that disappoint me and each one that does disappoint only seems to increase my investment and unwillingness to cut my losses.

Not about circuses, this was about a Vaudeville troupe, albeit one that was a bit circusy. I wisely bailed at the two-fifths marker and probably feel the most hostility towards this book of all listed here. Peopled with close-mouthed unappealing characters, I found the book itself withholding. 

Addendum: I'm adding this after otherwise finishing this whole accounting to say that, shortly after returning from vacation, a book called Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley, came in for me at the library. This was a Juvenile fiction book done with grace and creativity and warmth and, when all seemed lost, happily filled my dreams of a really good circus based book. One could say it was like The Troupe (above) meets A Snicker of Magic (below), except excellent and successful!

4 and 5. Whiplash River and Gutshot Straight by Berney

Elmore Leonardesque crime thriller comedic novels. I am at a loss as to why I have two or even why I have these since it's not a sub genre that generally works out for me. Like, it's not as if I've ever successfully read Elmore Leonard. I just like him in theory.

I did not realize Whiplash River is the sequel to Gutshot Straight and so read them in the wrong order, but I did not suffer much damage. I liked these very much and, because this follows on my comments for The Troupe, I can't resist the contrast that this is an author who is generous. Generous! 

6. Dragon's Bait by Vande Veld

Girl sacrificed to dragon. Girl and dragon get revenge. Okay. I'll bite.

About one third in this book took a turn from what I thought it might be into something strange and really interesting. Then at two thirds it turned back into exactly what I (or you, probably) would imagine it would be. It ended up feeling a bit like a sketch.

7. The Sea of Tranquility by Millay

It was about, er, something. I guess I'll see if I read it. I think romance comes into it.

I didn't believe this book and was out after 15 pages of it.

8. A Snicker of Magic by Lloyd

I'm totally blank here too. This is a Juvy book. It has a picture of an ice cream cone on the cover. Does that help?

Funny, I think of liking most of what I read this vacation. And I really did read a lot. But this one wasn't too great either, though I did finish it. It wasn't bad- a story about a kid finding home, and breaking a family curse, and restoring magic to a town. It had the uncommon problem of being overly sweet, the children especially, as if it were a kids' book from the 1910's or something.

9. I Shall Wear Midnight by Pratchett

Already started, this is a reread in preparation for the last in the series coming out in a month. This is book four and I have begun thinking of a blog post on my theory of trilogies.

I wrote that post on my theory of trilogies, but even though I came down a bit on this fourth book in a series, I only had a hard time with the dark first half. The humanity and beauty of the second half shone through as clearly as in the first three books.

10. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by North

I am currently reading this (it's day two of vacation for me!). It's pretty riveting, though the jury is still out. I'll be zipping upstairs to read more when I finish here.

It took a clever, interesting conceit, namely a person who lives the same life over and over but with accumulated knowledge, and brought it very well to life. But as the latter half expanded into what amounted to a battle with a mad super villain it gave away a good deal of what it earned, though not all. I would maybe have loved it had it found a way to go smaller than the more generic, unconvincing battle against the end of the world.

11. Living in a Foreign Language by Tucker

One of those there moving to the idyllic countryside of Italy because I have a lot of money but not an unbelievable amount books where it turns out it's not like the dream they thought it would be until it's sort of like the dream they thought it would be. I'm always up for one of those, especially when I can read it in a place where my jealousy will be tempered by my own lush situation. 

I had no complaints. The author had a nice conversational voice, wrote ably and appealingly about food, and was so rich that there weren't a lot of illusions about being clever and scrappy, but not so rich that it completely overwhelmed the book.

12. Cannery Row by Steinbeck 

This was a last minute addition and quite an argument for the classics since it was possibly my favorite book on the list. Fundamentally it was the underlying argument of the book that getting by doing as little as possible is a perfectly fine ambition in life. This seems to be an argument completely obliterated from American life, but I feel I have something still to learn from it.

13. Sabriel by Nix

Another last minute grab, I've read it before and like it very much. I did not remember it as being as short as it is, perhaps because it is a thick, many paged book. It turns out the lines on the page are sparse and the whole plot runs through pretty quickly. Great heroine though, and full of dark, sprawling horrors and walks into death that all somehow don't scare me. No small feat.

14. Frank Lloyd Wright in New York: The Plaza Years by Hession 

This was a random pick up in the lake house that ended up fascinating me. I didn't finish it because I found it late in the trip, but might still track down a copy here. It's a nicely written, more coffee table kind of book, about how Wright lived in NYC in his late eighties. It was a city he was intensely critical of, but still enjoyed and vigorously impressed his personality upon, and I learned another piece of his life, a bit more about NY in the fifties, and some about that era of urban architecture. 

And that,

is that.



  1. Thank you for mentioning Circus Mirandus. Finished it this morning. Wonderful.

    1. You're welcome, I'm so glad you liked it. Pretty charming, eh?


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